Rutgers (6-3; 0-1) hosts Wisconsin (5-4; 0-1) on Wednesday night at the RAC and in addition to our game preview, I was fortunate to connect with SB Nation’s Wisconsin site, Bucky’s 5th Quarter, in an effort to find out more about tonight’s opponent. It’s been an up and down season so far for the Badgers, but they are coming off a 20 point blowout win over Indiana this past weekend. Matt Belz was kind enough to give great insight on Wisconsin, including their shooting struggles, what adjustments they can make, under the radar contributors and more. Let’s tip things off here.
AB: Wisconsin has been a bit of a Jekyll and Hyde team so far this season. What have been the biggest issues and how do they fix them?
MB: The primary issues have both been offensively. The first theme has been turnover problems. The Badgers have had 10 or more turnovers in all but three games. For a program that generally prides itself on not beating themselves, the turnovers have stuck out so far this season. The second issue, and the most glaring and impactful problem has been shooting inconsistencies. The Badgers have been very hit or miss this year, literally and figuratively.
AB: Every game away from home this season has been a loss, what has been the biggest difference with this team away from the Kohl Center?
MB: I touched on it in the first response, but the shooting woes have really manifested away from the Kohl Center, particularly from three-point range. The Badgers are only averaging 30% on the season from deep, and in their four losses the team has only made 19 of 95. That is just not good enough to win when over 40% of the teams shot attempts are from the three-point arc.
AB: The Badgers have struggled shooting and defending the three this season, what adjustments can they make?
MB: In all honesty I think that the Badgers need to trim down the number of threes they shoot. Wisconsin has shot 54 more three-pointers than their opponents on the season. If they aren’t going down at a high clip, that needs to change.
On the defensive side, the Badgers need to rotate better on switches. As you know, Wisconsin sticks to a man-to-man defense the vast majority of the time, and switch on ball screens. Against strong guard play, those switches can get out of sorts at times. This all comes down to improving the communication.
AB: The main contributors this season are familiar names, who are some newer names for Rutgers fans to be aware of?
MB: Tyler Wahl is a true freshman that has seen his minutes increase as the year has gone on. He averages only around 15 minutes per game, but he can be a spark at times on both ends of the court with his hustle. Overall, the player that has improved the most is sophomore Kobe King this year. Now a starter, he is finally healthy and is the best pure scorer on the team and had 24 points in his last game.
AB: How do you predict this game to play out and who will shine for the winner?
MB: Overall I think the matchups between Ron Harper Jr. and Kobe King, and Myles Johnson and Nate Reuvers will go a long way in determining this game. I expect both Harper and King to try to establish themselves early and it could be a nice back-and-forth battle. As long as Nate Reuvers can stay out of foul trouble, I like Wisconsin to figure things out to a certain extent on the road and win in a close game though.
AB: Bonus question - Can Wisconsin football please find a running back from another state? After Ron Dayne, Corey Clement, and Jonathan Taylor, can you please leave Jalen Berger alone? Asking for a friend.
MB: Are you sure? I think the Schiano hire definitely helps Rutgers in this battle, and I think that Berger will ultimately stay home. But hey, Wisconsin’s New Jersey success speaks for itself. Berger is a tremendous player and will help whichever team he attends. I think we can all agree Penn State and LSU can each pound sand in this recruitment.
Thanks again to Matt for taking the time to give great insight on Wisconsin basketball. You can follow him on Twitter here and make sure to check out Bucky’s 5th Quarter and for my answers to their questions on Rutgers basketball, click here.